25. August 2007 · Comments Off on About Cell Phones · Categories: General

For the past four weeks I’ve been training up as a Customer Service Rep for a Ginormous Wireless Company. I gotta do that before I can move up because, well, everyone does that. I’m okay with that. I can’t supervise or teach what I don’t know. I’ve tried before. It doesn’t work. Besides, it’s really nice to NOT be in charge for awhile.

I’ve learned a lot in the past month. I thought I’d share a few things.

Monitor your minutes. Seriously, it’s easier than you think. You can keep track of your minutes via your phone or via your carrier’s web site every day if you want. Call the Customer Service folks. Tell them you want to audit your minutes for the last three months and ask them straight out if you think you need to change your plan. If you and your spouse are on a 1000 minute plan but are only using about 500 minutes every month, you’re paying way too much. The better carriers will be happy to help you save some money because they know you’ll appreciate it. Appreciation means you’re sticking around. Loyal customers are the life’s blood of cell carriers. We love new customers, don’t get me wrong, but the good customer who sticks around and pays his bills on time all the time? We adore them.

Go to your carrier’s web site. Most of them have more information than you can imagine concerning your plan, your phone and what you can do to save yourself some money.

Check for the companies that give you a Fave 5 or a Top 10. Think about it. There are only so many people you really talk to on a regular basis. If you’re talking to them for the price of your plan, how many additional minutes do you actually need? And the carriers love setting that up for you. It keeps their costs down if they know what numbers are going to be used most often. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know, but it just does.

If there’s a T-Mobile or a Cingular or a Verizon dealer in your area, take your business to them rather than buying a plan from one of those multi-phone places in the mall. Many of them are very reputable and have the highest integrity. Some of them don’t. Go to the brand name store and you know you’re not going to get any “extras” added onto your plan.

Check your coverage at home, at work and other places you might use your phone before you buy a plan. Not all cell phone companies have coverage everywhere. The better companies have pretty detailed maps outlining the coverage in your town and the towns you’re going to be traveling to.

Speaking of coverage, no cell phone company can guarantee coverage. Listen carefully to cell phone commercials. They’ll tell you the truth, they have “LESS” dropped calls, the “FEWEST” dropped calls, none of them will tell you they have no dropped calls. Read your contract. There isn’t a cell phone company in the country that doesn’t have a disclaimer saying that they in no way guarantee coverage or a good signal.

If you have a teenager and you’re going to give them a cell phone, make sure you buy them an unlimited texting package. Seriously. If you can’t afford to pay for unlimited texting for them, you can’t afford to give them a cell phone. You may have great kids, they may be completely responsible in every way, but you’d be surprised at how quickly a text conversation can rack up extra charges.

Here’s another thing. No company will turn off a phone or text messaging just because you’ve used your monthly allotment of minutes or messages. Everything over what you agreed to pay for is going to cost you a LOT more than if you called in to change your plan before your billing cycle ends. Adding more minutes or more text messages to your plan might cost you another 10-20 bucks, but if you don’t, at $0.50 a minute or $0.20 a message, how much do you think you can run up if you’ve hit your limit by the middle of your cycle?

Some cell phones are better at some things that others. Go surf around and read the reviews. Do you want/need fun and games and email and web, or do you need a phone that picks up even the weakest signals? Which phones give you the best balance? Do the lighter phones feel wrong in your hand when you’re talking for more than a minute?

If you are going to use your cell phone when traveling, especially internationally, call your carrier’s Customer Service Center and ask them to break down the charges for all calls you make and receive while you’re traveling. Getting your phone unlocked and buying a pre-paid Sim Card for that country might seem like the best idea, but there may be hidden fees and carrier charges that you won’t see until after you’re home and the trip is over. Even if you’re traveling to the next state over from you, make sure you have a roaming package while you’re traveling. Toll charges get more people in trouble than you could imagine. Never, ever, ever, ever, use your cell phone on a cruise liner. Unless you’re someone sitting at the Captain’s Table, you probably can’t afford it.

Be careful who you give your cell number to. You get charged for messages sent to your phone whether or not you requested them and text spam is getting almost as bad as email spam.

The bottom line is educate yourself. Do you know when your billing cycle ends? Can you change your plan up to the day before it ends if you’re going over your minutes or if you’ve not used them all? Can you get the same plan you’ve always had for less money if you extend your contract now? If you change your contract are you actually going to lose money because you’re on one of those old plans from the cell phone war days that you can’t get anymore? Are you paying for features you’re not using? Is your kid messaging a thousand times a day? Is that cute horoscope you subscribed to costing you $0.50 a day?

Shop around. You’re going to be with that carrier for at least a year unless you’re on one of those ridiculously jacked up prepaid plans. What kind of support is available? When is it available? You’re not buying the phone, you’re buying a service. Who gives you the most bang for your buck?

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